For more than a week, Rupert Murdoch’s Australian has been on the war path against green and left “extremists”. It began by attacking the NSW Greens for supporting the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israeli apartheid. The Greens are organised in independent parties in each state but the Murdoch flagship demanded that Australian Greens leader Bob Brown bring its most left-wing branch into line.
Labor PM Julia Gillard joined the fray branding the Greens as “extremists who do not share the values of everyday Australians”. Former PMs Bob Hawke, John Howard and Kevin Rudd were rolled out to attack the Greens. Former NSW Labor premier Bob Carr accused the Greens of being “overtaken by hardline leftist Greens”.
In a number of wild responses to an ABC Drum website opinion piece by Socialist Alliance Marrickville candidate Pip Hinman defending the Greens’ BDS stance, the Greens were accused of being taken over by the Socialist Alliance. This of course is a total lie.
Then the April 2-3 Weekend Australian declared: “Brown puts Greens Left on notice”. It quoted Brown as saying that the NSW Greens BDS position had cost it votes in the March 26 NSW election.
The attacks in the Australian continued all the following week.
“The Greens are setting a dangerous agenda for this country and (are) allowed free rein to do so by their Labor joint venture partners,” National Senator Ron Boswell was quoted in the April 7 Australian.
“The Greens have morphed back into reds. They sell themselves as environmentalists but are really just a rebranded socialist alliance party. There’s nothing cuddly about them.”
On April 8, the Australian quoted former Queensland Greens leader Drew Hutton and Tasmanian Greens cofounder Norm Sanders of having strayed from its environmentalist roots.
According to the Australian, Hutton said there had always been “tension in the Greens between those who come from a Left background, and those who come from a green background”.
The article ended with an outrageous quote from Sanders: “Bob and Christine are the only ones who’ve been on the barricades. They’re the only activists in the Greens. I don’t know where the rest come from.”
So what has stirred the right-wing hornets nest?
Ironically it is the silver (or should we says red-green?) lining to the dark cloud of the landslide Liberal-National Coalition victory in the NSW elections.
While the Coalition enjoyed a 13% swing as most angry voters punished the hated privatising and corrupt former Labor state government, there was also a smaller but significant gain by progressive parties and independents that campaigned not just on environmental issues but also in opposition to privatisation and in support of workers rights.
The Greens won their first lower house seat in the state (Jamie Parker in the inner Sydney seat of Balmain, a former “safe” Labor seat) and look like increasing their upper house represenation from four to five. In addition, the Greens statewide vote increased from 9% to 11%.
In the inner-west seat of Marrickville, the Greens Fiona Byrnes came just 700 votes short of knocking off former deputy premier Carmel Tebbutt (after distribution of preferences) after a campaign full of dirty tricks and anti- Green smears. Byrnes had been slandered as an extremist, an anti-Semite and a Nazi-lover simply because as Mayor of Marrickville she, along with all the Greens and Labor councillors, had supported a resolution supporting the BDS campaign.
Initially, her attackers braggeded that her support for the Palestinian rights had cost her the seat but their triumphalism soured when they realised that she had nearly won despite a smear campaign amplified by right-wing radio shock jocks and all the big business newspapers .
While earlier polls had predicted a Greens vote as high as 19%, and they only got to 11% on average, the Greens came second in primary votes in 12 seats, won more than 19% of the primary vote in seven electorates and scored more than 10% in 34 (half of these in traditional Labor seats).
While most of the bigger Greens votes were in electorates traditionally held by Coalition parties, their two highest votes were in Labor strongholds. And while the Greens vote was around 5% or less in many western Sydney working-class electorates, there were significant combined Greens and socialist votes in a couple of working-class electorates.
The total primary vote for candidates to the left of the major parties in Marrickville was 39.01%, in Wollongong it was 39.08% (with independent “Red Rev” Gordon Bradbery winning 29.51% of that) and in Newcastle it was 20.02%. The green-left combined primary vote in Marrickville, Balmain and Wollongong was great than that of the Labor candidate in each of these traditional ALP strongholds. We need to build on these important gains.
In addition, according to an article by Hall Greenland in Crikey.com, the Greens won Balmain because “nearly a third” disregarded Labor’s official how to vote and preferenced the Greens.
Despite the subsequent unease from more conservative elements the Greens, the NSW election result also shows a growth in the number of people looking for a left and green political alternative. This is what has stirred the right-wing hornets nest. They are worried about this trend and are trying to shift the Greens to the right or isolate the left inside and outside the Greens. They are afraid of the people being offered an alternative to the shared corporate-profits-first and all-the-way-with-imperialsm agenda of the major parties.
This latest torrent of red-baiting from the big business media and conservative politicians is a reminder that we live in a sharply class divided society. A small minority in Australia monopolise the wealth in Australia and they use this wealth not just to extract even more wealth by exploiting workers and the countries resources, but to wield tremendous power. The super rich have got fabulously richer and they want to keep getting richer. The Merrill Lynch-Capgemini World Wealth Report, which tracks the fortunes of the world’s richest investors, revealed that the combined wealth of Australia’s “high-net-worth individuals” (who comprise just 0.8% of the Australian population) increased by almost 37% during 2010, from $US379.8 billion ($433.6bn) to $US519.4 bn.
Dare to question their right to do so and they set their hounds on you.